Developmental Views Of Parenting Style And Effectiveness

Essay, Research Paper

Parenting effectiveness and influence have been studied by developmental

psychologists who have been interested in the role of parenting and how it may affect the

success or failure of children. An important aspect to this area of research is parenting

styles. There have been four styles noted and each may have differing outcomes for the

children in later life: authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and unengaged/uninvolved.

Positive discipline and corporal punishment are ways parents may choose to respond to a

child’s misbehavior. Usually corporal punishment is identified with the authoritative

style and positive discipline with the authoritarian style. Research has suggested that

parenting strategies might be culturally specific in their relation to child behavior

problems. Socioeconomic status has also been found to affect child-rearing practices and

poverty can cause strained parental-child relations which causes parents to be less

nurturing. When negative behaviors have been identified behavioral family

interventions, which apply social learning principles, have been suggested as a means of

helping children with conduct problems.

Four Styles of Child Rearing

Permissive parents “are more responsive than they are demanding. They are

nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable

self-regulation, and avoid confrontation” (Baumrind,1991, p.62). They allow their

children to make too many decisions for themselves. Some of these parents believe that

they have little control of their children’s behaviors.

Authoritarian parents “are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be

obeyed without explanation” and will use punishment to get what they expect (Baumrind,

1991, 62). They expect a high level of conformity of their children. Often they are

unresponsive to their children’s needs. Often, if the child does not do exactly as the

parent requires the parent will use force to get the child to do what is expected.

Baumrind’s (1991) study describes authoritative parents as both demanding

and responsive. The parents set reasonable limits for the children and expect them to

follow through, but will also listen to the child’s concerns. They express warm feelings

toward the child and are patient. Both parent and child gets to have a say in matters.

Unresponsive/uninvolved parents are low in both responsiveness and

demandingness. They may reject the child. They do not show any effort beyond what

is needed to take care of the child’s basic needs. If this parenting style is extreme it is

considered child neglect.

Children of authoritative parents usually have the most desirable

profiles. They are generally friendly with peers, independent, have a high

degree of self-control, and work well with adults. They have more self-confidence when

attempting new tasks. They also tend to have more self-control.

Children of authoritarian parents tend to act out aggressively and display disruptive

behaviors. Bierman, Lengua, McMahon, and Stormshak (2000) found that parenting

styles that included yelling/ nagging were associated with all types of disruptive behavior

problems and children of parents who showed little affection were prone to oppositional


Children of permissive parents tend to be immature. The children tend to be

dependent and demanding of adults. They may become involved with drugs as

adolescents. They usually have poor self-control and lack good judgment. The parents

have not expected anything of the children so they do not aspire to much later on.

Punishment is defined as the application of a negative stimulus to reduce or eliminate

a behavior. There are two types typically used with children: punishment involving verbal

reprimands and disapproval and punishment involving physical pain, as in corporal

punishment. Corporal punishment involves the application of some form of physical

pain in response to undesirable behavior. Harris, Holden, and Miller (1999) found that

many parents use spanking and feel it is justified because, in the parents opinion, it

corrects the child’s misbehavior quickly. Straus and Gelles’s study (cited in Donnelly,

Lewis, Mahoney, and Maynard, 2000) reported “Almost all mothers (92%) and fathers

(86%) in the United States report using some type of physical discipline with 3-to

6-year-old children. Both research groups agree that there are clear implications for

intervention or prevention of harsh punishment, especially since punishment often only

produces short-term effects. If punishment is to be effective it must be consistent so it

won’t cause high rates of disobedience. There should be some discussion of the

reasoning for punishment.

Positive discipline is a means of encouraging positive behavior. It allows the child to

know what behaviors would be favored. Reinforcing emerging desirable behaviors with

frequent praise and ignoring trivial misdeeds; and modeling orderly, predictable behavior,

respectful communication, and collaborative conflict resolution strategies all help to

encourage positive behaviors. Positive discipline is favored over punishment because it

should reduce the need for punishment once the positive behavior is exhibited more


Ethnic/SES Issues

Socioeconomic status may affect the style of parenting chosen by parents.

Bronfenbrenner’s (1989) Ecological Systems Theory shows that differences in

macrosystems (the general cultural milieu) affect microsystems (such as family, peers,

school, and the community) as they influence the child’s development. Bronfenbrenner

explicitly predicts that macrosystem differences such as socioeconomic status and racial

or ethnic group membership result in very different developmental outcomes. In general,

parents with higher SES tend to focus more on talking with their kids more than lower

SES parents. The lower SES parents usually use physical punishment more. A possible

explanation of these issues might be due to differences in education levels. The

higher SES parents usually have a greater degree of education. the lower SES families

spend more time trying to earn enough money to support their families leaving them less

time to deal with stresses at home. In cases of poverty, parenting becomes more

difficult. The stresses of life tend to break down the family system. Impoverished

parents tend to spend less time concerned with their children. Societally based

experiences may lead some parents to rely on accessible and coherent goals in their

discipline, whereas others are more reactive.

Ethnicity may have an effect upon parenting styles chosen which may be due to

cultural values. According to Baumrind (1993) the effects of physical discipline on

child behavior problems at school have been found to be stronger for European

American than for African American children. This may be due to the fact that most

African -American mothers expect immediate obedience. The methods they choose may

help the children in the long run due to difficult living conditions faced by the children.

Behavioral Family Intervention

Since many of the children with conduct problems have parents with personal

problems it is important for help to be available to both the parent and child. If there is a

connection between parenting practices and the possibility of behavior problems then the

best way to help is through use of parenting programs as intervention. Through these

programs parents are taught to increase positive interactions with their children. They are

taught to reduce their own negative reactions to the children as well. An example of a

family intervention program is the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program by Sanders

(2000). There has been great success of behavioral family interventions which helps to

show that parents are important when it comes to dealing with children’s behavioral

problems. In a recent study of discipline responses and influences of

SES and ethnicity (Bates, Dodge, Penderhughes, Pettit, and Zellia, 2000) found that

culture and context exert their influences on discipline responses. “Promotion of

self-monitoring of cognitions and affect, as well as problem solving about alternative

discipline strategies, may help make discipline decisions less reactive and harsh.”

according at Bates et al (2000). A study concerning the prevention of conduct

problems of preschoolers (Webster-Stratton, 1998) found that educating parents helps

the children and that there is great promise in this these types of methods. There is

considerable evidence to support the use of parent training techniques based on social

and behavioral learning theory for children with conduct disorder. These interventions

have been successfully implemented in the clinic and in the home using individual or

group sessions.

Behavioral family intervention seems to be a successful way to help parents and

children, but it is more likely to help if the child is young. There may be problems with

getting help for the children and parents at most risk. If the parents are unable or

unwilling to seek help for their children, by the time help is appropriated through

agencies it may be too late. A possible solution may lie in mandatory prevention

programs for at-risk populations. Future research should be done to link specific types

of conduct disorder with specific parenting styles. If there were more research done

with regard to this aspect then we may have a better idea of which groups to focus more

preventative attention on.



Bates, J., Dodge, K. Pinderhughes, E., Pettit, G. , Zelli, A. (2000). Discipline

responses influences of parents socioeconomic status, ethnicity, beliefs about parenting,

stress, and cognitive-emotional process. Journal of Family psychology, 14, (3), 380-400.

Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and

substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11(1), 56-95.

Baumrind, D. (1993). The average expectable environment is not good enough: A

response to Scarr. Child Development, 64, 1299-1317.

Bierman,K., Lengua, L., McMahon, R., Stormshak, E. (2000). Parenting practices and

child disruptive behavior problems in early elementary school. Journal of Clinical Child

Psychology, 29 (3), 17-29.

Bor, W., Markie-Dadds, C., Tully, L., Sanders, M. (2000). The triple p-positive

parenting program: a comparison of enhanced standard, and self-directed behavioral

family intervention for parents of children with early onset conduct problems. Journal of

Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, (4) 624-640.

Bronfenbrenner, U. (1989). Ecological systems theory. In R. Vasta (Ed.) Annals

of Child Development 6 Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.

Donnelly, W., Lewis, T., Mahoney, A., Maynard, L. (2000). Mother and father

self-reports of corporal punishment and severe physical aggression toward clinic-referred

youth. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29 (2), 266-281.

Harris, S., Holden, G., Miller, P. (1999). The instrumental side of corporal

punishment: parents reported practices and outcome expectancies. Journal of Marriage

and the Family, 61, 908-919.

Webster-Stratton, C. (1998). Preventing conduct problems in head start:

strengthening parenting competencies. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,

66, 715-730.


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